The Past is Not a Good Idea...
...I realize this after I get off the train and head up a street in suburban
London which I last saw 60 years ago. It starts with a pedestrian crossing
and a set of traffic lights, unnecessary in those quieter times. It continues
with a row of chalet-style 1930s houses, which have since grown extensions
and driveways with two cars—few cars existed then—past the home of
childhood sweetheart, Annie, who dropped me, to the house where I grew
up during the wartime emergency, to find its garden has disappeared in
favor of a concrete patio, with scarcely a flower in sight.
after the bomb
Next door, Doreen lived with her mother. Doreen was born with a
crooked jaw and port wine stain across her face, which meant she
was shunned, occasionally mocked. Her father left, embarked on a
new relationship. At a time of austerity and rationing I offered her
sweets when I could, never discussed her disfigurement, and gave
her the only kiss she probably got in her life from a boy.
a farthing of shrapnel
my lucky charm
I head for the shopping parade round the corner where I stole, and
later sold, a bicycle, remembering none of the shops that now exist.
It is at this point I see an elderly lady, bent and shuffling with a stick,
her face disfigured with a port wine stain, and realize all this thinking
about the past is not a good idea.
in the shop window
Note: [‘Farthing’, the smallest form currency in wartime Britain]
an elderly stranger